Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spoiled?: Maybe, but thankful to be.

We went to Taos Tuesday and came back Wednesday. Before we left we heard from the #3 son that he was having hand surgery. He'd gotten a thistle in his finger. It got infected and the poison was moving toward his palm. A person can lose his hand, his arm and his life if the infection isn't stopped. It's done and he's doing just fine.

Back to Taos. We and our friends, the Buck's, had read Blood and Thunder. It's the story of Kit Carson, the southwest expansion and New Mexico history. It's excellent reading, keeps your interest all the time. Kit lived in Taos when he wasn't riding back and forth across the continent on his mule. While we were in Taos we visited his home and the home of Governor Bent. Bent was killed by Indians who thought he was responsible for the deaths of some braves. They shot arrows into his face and scalped him alive.

We visited Taos Pueblo, too.
Taos Pueblo is set in the foothills of the largest peaks in NM. Among the smaller, one story adobes is a multi-storied adobe building that has been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. On the half million acres of Pueblo land stands a burned out adobe church where the Indians went for shelter from Mexicans thinking they would be safe. The Mexicans burned it to the ground.

Yesterday we visited the Martinez hacienda outside of Taos. This was the largest home we'd seen. Severino Martin (later changed to Martinez) brought his family to the northern boundry of the Spanish empire in 1804 and opened a trading post on what was the final terminus for the Camino Real. The Royal Road went from Mexico City to New Mexico. He enlarged it several times. It was built around two courtyards. Many rooms could only be entered from the inside walkway around the courtyard.

Why am I writing about all this? My brother wrote a blog yesterday about everything he's thankful for, and seeing these places made me thankful.

Josefa Carson, Kit's third wife, bore seven children. He already had one daughter by his first wife. Josefa lived in Taos and most of that time it was without her husband. Kit traveled from one side of the continent to another and wasn't at home as much as he wished (from what we read.) I'm thankful I only had two children and had a husband around all that time. Just a note about Josefa and Kit: She died giving birth their last child in 1868 and a month later, to the day, Kit died.

Seeing the homes, the adobes that had to be re-adobed twice a year to keep them from falling down, made me thankful I live in a home that doesn't require that much upkeep.

None of these places had bathrooms, and boy, do I love having good bathrooms! Information about Martinez said the people never bathed and most people had lice. I know that in England the people didn't bathe either and wore long sleeves and high collars to hide the sores on their bodies from not washing.

Maybe we're spoiled, but I like it that way. I'm thankful for air conditioning and heat in my home, for showers and bathrooms and the ability to get clean. I'm thankful for doctors and surgeons who know what to do about raging infections. I'm thankful we don't have to wear clothes (most of the time) to hide sores on our bodies. I'm thankful we don't have lice and if we did, we could get rid of them. I'm thankful for microwaves and electric ovens and cook tops, for washing machines and dryers, for electric lights and telephones (even when it's someone asking for money), grocery stores and computers. I'm thankful we are able to travel comfortably in a vehicle on paved highways or fly across the ocean. I like living in the age of television and computers and electricity and busi-ness all around me. Because of all these conveniences I can talk to my family every day--even when they live hundreds of miles from me.

I wouldn't call this being spoiled. I call this a good life, and I thank God for every minute of it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Opposite of Genius

We just paid a fortune to a computer genius to help us with our computer. He showed me how to do some amazing things. Of course, after he left I tried to do some of them. Guess what. It just doesn't work for me.

What is it about people my age? Does the computer know how old I am and how much I don't know? I can just hear it saying to the hard drive genie, "Here she comes again. Let's see how much we can frustrate her." Working together, they manage to raise my blood pressure and scramble my mind.

It just isn't fair. If only Bill Gates had started younger or been born in the 30s. I would have grown up with this stuff, and today I might know what I'm doing! What's the opposite of a genius? Whatever it is, I'm it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Waiting for the Sugar

I've thought about whether I should write about this, but since it's pretty heavy on my heart, I think I will.

I have a friend whose son was away from home for years. She had no idea where he was most of that time. One day he "came to his senses" (just like the prodigal son) and went home. Today he's doing great.

One of my daughters is "away from home." She wouldn't see it that way, of course. I know where she is, and she says she is happy and in the best place she's ever been in her life. Maybe she's right. All I know is that she and I aren't able to communicate any more. She's my first born and was wanted more than I thought possible. I didn't see her for a while after she was born. She was whisked off to the nursery, cleaned up, weighed, etc. before they brought her to me. I can still see her face as she looked into my eyes and I looked into hers. It was like we were seeing into each other's souls.

I've always felt that way about her. She and I have been able to talk on deep levels, and we agree in many ways on what we believe and how we feel about situations. But everything has changed with us. We can't seem to find a place of understanding now. Just talking to her and thinking about her causes me so much stress that I've had to stop calling her and trying to talk. And it hurts like hell. I miss her.

Maybe this is the way it should be. It's really hard to see it clearly since I'm in the midst of it. I don't think we were "co-dependent" or that I was too involved in her life. My desire for her has always been that she find her own way and her own happiness, and I've stood back so she can do it. But, even when she was doing that, we were able to talk. God spoke to me once about loving her unconditionally, and I've done that--still do. He hasn't told me to do anything else about this. So I just have to live through it, like my friend did when her son was away from home. I don't know how she did it. At least I know where my daughter is and that she isn't on drugs or drinking.

It's strange to even write about this so that other people can read it, but I felt it was necessary for this reason. Life doesn't hand us cherries all the time. A lot of the time we get lemons. Many times when we get those lemons, we think that's the end, then God comes along and adds some sugar--sugar that was always there, and we just couldn't see it.

When life gets us down, that's when we have to look up and wait for the sugar. I'm waiting for the sugar right now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Non-Internet Techies

I have two friends that aren't hooked up to the Internet. One has a word processor and the other doesn't have a computer of any kind.

The word processor friend uses hers to write letters. I guess she has to print out the letter, mail it and wait for an answer. The only letter I get from her is at Christmas. We talk a couple of times a year because I call her on the phone. She doesn't have a cell phone either. I'm not sure she has an answering machine. And I wonder how many letters she gets answered.

The other friend's husband retired many years ago. His company had just introduced computers into his workplace (that'll tell you how long ago he retired), but he never got the hang of them. I understand that because when I was first introduced to computers we had to use the old Basic, and it was a pain. So, this friend and her husband don't even want to look into the world of computers. They didn't have a cell phone until recently, but they never have it on unless they plan to use it themselves. Probably don't carry it unless they go out of town. In fact, they didn't have an answering machine on their phone line until a few years ago. If they go out of town, they turn it off. They probably still use rabbit ears on their TV, but I don't know that for sure. The only time we talk is when I call them, too.

I think both of these friends have two things going on. One, they are a little scared of the Internet because they know nothing about it. Second, they don't care about being hooked up with the world. I understand the scared part. If one of my friends hadn't pushed me into it, I wouldn't have gotten a computer either. Her husband sold them, helped me get one and get on the Net, and I've been a "techie" ever since. I love being able to communicate with people I haven't seen in years. As a writer I like being able to Google just about anything I need for a story. Writing a novel on Word is a million times easier than trying to do it on a typewriter. And I like being hooked up with the world.

But you know, both of these people are happy. They may not know what they're missing, but maybe they aren't missing anything at all. I'd love to be able to communicate with them more often. They're always happy to talk to me and ask us to come visit them. But they never call first. The fact that they don't call first might tell me something. All they need is the world around them; their friends, family, cats and husbands.

Kind of like the good old days.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Hope

Do ants have hope? What about birds?

After our class at church yesterday A comment made at our table started me thinking.

When China became a communist nation, one of Mao's plans was to erradicate all religious thought from the people. As the older population died out and the younger people grew up, thoroughly indoctrinated with the lie that there was no God, it looked as though he had succeeded. But Mao didn't count on what his lies would bring. Today China has 2.3 times the number of suicides as the global average. It's the leading cause of death for 15 to 34 year olds. I've heard the Soviet Union had the same statistics during the time it was under communist rule.

Why do people commit suicide--sane people? Life in China is difficult, although, so they tell us, times began changing in the seventies. Human rights still don't exist in that country, regardless of what kind of propaganda the world is told by China's press. People don't have much--common people. The wealthy class still exists. Oppression. Government edicts that control lives. Overcrowding. Pollution. Shoddy workmanship. Not a pleasant place in which to exist, much less live.

Many years ago I was living in a painful situation that had gone on for years, and I didn't see a way out of it. The stress was so intense that even today I have health issues that began during that time. I was depressed, but didn't know it. The pain of living was so great that all I wanted to do was escape. I believed in God and in Heaven, and I knew in my heart that I'd be there when I died, even if I took my own life. I knew this because He knew the pain I was in. The day I considered suicide I hesitated long enough to ask God to give me something to live for so I wouldn't carry it out.

Like a tiny flame I felt hope rise up in my heart. Life didn't get much better for a long time, but that hope kept me going. It was the last time I ever contemplated suicide.

But what if I hadn't known God, hadn't known I could ask for His help? What if I hadn't had that hope? Suicide is an immediate escape from a life that sees no hope. If all a person sees is a life of pain and suffering, why go on? At the moment hope is taken away from us, what is there to live for? We would be no better off than ants or birds.

Life is precious. If I had died in 1974, I would have missed seeing how God brought my family out of the pain and into good lives. I would have missed the love I've had and been able to give all these last thirty-four years. I would have missed God's purpose for my life--to tell people of His goodness and that, in Him, there is always hope.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sherri's Day

Forty-eight years ago today my baby girl (my second baby girl) was born. It's hard to believe so much time has passed so quickly. Sherri was, and still is, a whirlwind of motion. She never stopped moving during labor; as soon as she found out she could crawl she was up on her feet, and soon after she was walking. When she was a toddler, I found her in strange places. One day I found her on top of the bathroom counter taking everything out of the medicine cabinet. When she saw me, she calmly started putting everything back. Another time I found her sitting on her potty chair painting her feet and legs with her daddy's shoe polish. At a grocery store, I had to watch carefully as I pushed her in the grocery cart down the aisles because her little arms were amazingly adept at wiping the shelves clean of whatever we passed by.

When Sherri wass eighteen months old, she came down with spinal meningitis and spent three weeks in the hospital. I didn't leave her at all until she began to recover about eight days later. Then it was just to run home and shower and hurry back. How well I remember the day she sat on my lap for the first time after the fever was gone. I was able to feed her some baby food, the first she'd had in two weeks. All of the sudden she pointed a weak finger at the Gerber's bottle and in a sweet shaky voice said, "Baby." I cried with gratitude. It was the first indication that she wasn't brain damaged and was going to get well.

At the age of five we discovered Sherri had some hearing loss caused by the high fever--deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. We enrolled her in Amarillo's Speech and Hearing Center where she learned to read lips. With speech therapy for a few years, she learned to pronounce "r" and "s" and today, unless you knew it, you'd never know she had a hearing loss.

I remember how wonderful it was to hold my little baby in my arms. A few times in her life, as she got older, I wished I could go back for just a few minutes and hold her that way again. I did try it once after she was grown. Somehow it just isn't the same holding a five foot four woman as it was a two year old!

Today I wish my "baby girl" many more wonderful birthdays. She's as big a joy today (to everyone who knows her) as she is to me. Did I say she's beautiful, talented and sweet? (And I'm not prejudiced.) She's easy to love, and I do with all my heart.

Happy Birthday, Sherri. You have no idea how you have blessed my life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Little is Big

The only dishwasher we had when I was growing up was--me.

I don't know if electric dishwashers had even been invented back then. If they had, I didn't know anyone who had one. I have one now, but there are still some things we wash by hand. This morning, as I was washing up a few items, my thoughts went back to those years when I stood over the sink, dishcloth in hand (We use a sponge now. Had sponges been invented?) and washed every plate, glass, pot, pan and piece of silverware. I saw myself doing the job with no love in my heart toward it. I hated washing the dishes.

Then other pictures came into my mind. I could see our kitchen, could smell it--the wonderful aroma of fresh, from-scratch bread and cookies baking. I could see my little brother, a busy, cute curly-headed kid always in the middle of the floor pushing a toy car or truck around and making engine noises that were quite realistic; Mother, a stay-at-home mom who sewed better than any department store seamstress, always the life of every party; Daddy, a hardworking, great guy with a wry sense of humor. A home filled with warmth and love.

Not as my parents were at the end of their lives.

Bittersweet memories.

Having to wash the dishes was a big thing to me back then. As I look back on it today, it was really a little thing in the whole scheme of life. My family was together. We were healthy and young and had a life ahead of us that would bring joys we never could have imagined.

Robert Brault said, "Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." He got that right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let It Dry

We had our carpets cleaned yesterday--the living room, bedroom, dining room and our closet. Almost all the furniture in those rooms are in the entry hall, hallway, kitchen and our bathroom. Every place we walk is like running an obstacle course. We were instructed by the cleaner person that it would be better to allow two days (yesterday and today) to let the carpet dry thoroughly before we moved everything back into place.For two melancholies (the Florence Littauer definition for perfectionists), it isn't easy living around disorder. We love being able to restore order--quickly and perfectly. But our melancholy needs to be subjected to the wisdom of waiting until the carpet dries.

Isn't that the way we are in our lives? We want everything to be what we think is perfect all the time, and when it isn't, we try to find a way to make it happen--fast. Thinking about this reminded me of what James told us. Trials (having the carpet cleaned is a trial) tests our faith which produces patience (we want to put everything back into place NOW), which produces a perfect work (no wood stains on wet carpet.) In his words, after we let that happen then we are perfect and complete--mature. Maturity is not rushing our lives, but being able to wait for the perfect time, for the perfect event to take place even when we think we know how it should work and can think of a myriad of ways to make that happen. Today, maturity for us is letting the carpet dry.

Maybe we should think about letting the "carpet dry" more often.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who Do You Miss?

I received another one of those emails today that asks you to answer several questions about yourself--something that's supposed to help your friends get to know you better. This one asked, "Who do you miss the most?" The person who sent it to me wrote her mother, father and the family she grew up with.

I stopped and thought. Who do I miss? My parents? The husband I lost to cancer? I couldn't honestly say I miss them. They're better off than when I last was with them: my dad had heart failure, my mother was 89 and her mind had gone from me, my husband couldn't breathe. As I thought about it, one name came to my mind. It was the name of one of the oldest friends in my life. We met in second grade. She stayed with us for about six weeks in high school while her parents went to Africa. She rode to school with us every day from junior high through high school.

After I graduated, we moved from our home town, and after she was married, she and her husband moved to the same town we were living in. We moved back to our old home town and so did they. Then they moved to New Mexico and we didn't see each other for a long time. She wrote letters, called, sent needlework presents, and never let go of our friendship. She got cancer and fought it for years, but finally she just gave it up. I remember the last time I spoke to her. What could I say? Not much. I just cried. I wasn't ready to live in a world without my friend, but I had to.

I guess I miss her more than anyone I've known, and the reason is probably a selfish one. Someone who hangs on to you for over sixty years must love you. What I miss is not just talking to her, but knowing she's still holding on to me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Everywhere and in Everything

Hedonism. The first time I became familiar with that word was when my husband's boss described their vacation on an island by that name in the Bahamas. He and his wife were in their late forties and had discovered the joys of nudism. He talked about the people they met and how they snorkled, swam, dined and visited sans clothing. He invited us to come with them sometime. No thanks. (I haven't been in touch with them for years. Now that they're nearing eighty, I wonder if they still go to there.)

Hedonism is the philosophy that pleasure is of ultimate importance. Its name is derived from the Greek word for "delight." There are scores of hedonistic resorts in the world. They are based on "do what you want to do" places; no holds barred, no laws or ethics, nothing to hold a person back from exhibiting his most basic instincts and desires.

I believe God is everywhere and in everything--omnipresent. If that's true, then He must be on those hedonistic islands, too. In what way, I'm not sure. (I wonder if they go to church nude--or do they even have churches around those resorts? How do you focus on God when naked? Makes for a strange picture. Maybe they dress up in swim suits or shorts for services.) But I digress.

We saw a movie yesterday--"Hancock." Good movie. Not great. A lot of special effects, good actors and a good story. It's my belief that if God is really omnipresent, then I can find Him if I look. I saw Him in the movie. I don't want to give away the plot, but I will tell you where I found Him, and why I'm writing about hedonism in the same blog.

Hedonism is about ME, my pleasure, what I want. Hancock is about doing what's good for someone else. Hancock makes the ultimate sacrifice and that sacrifice was to deny himself for someone else's happiness. That's where I saw God. My basic nature might want to do nothing that doesn't bring me satisfaction and pleasure, but if I have enough of God in me, I won't be able to do it. Now, I know people who say they don't believe in God, but they aren't hedonistic. They are good people and would give of themselves for someone else. Maybe they have more of God in them than they know.

After all, He is omnipresent.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Letting Go

Ever hear a word or a phrase in your mind, one that seems to come out of nowhere? It usually comes when there isn't alot of "mind noise" going on. Like when we're quiet during our day or when we wake up or just before we go to sleep.

For the past few days I've been hearing "Let go."

I remember a phrase I heard a long time ago, "Let go and let God." Is this that? Or is this just plain old "let go" of something I'm holding on to?

One of those beautiful emails came yesterday--pictures, music, wise sayings--and two stood out to me. "Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction." The other: "Change your thoughts and change your world." Norman Vincent Peale said the second one.

I feel the winds of change--in our country, in the world, in the lives of people I love, and in my own life. The winds have been blowing pretty hard, at times knocking me off my feet. Thoughts swirling around in my mind. Fear. Regret. Sadness. And fatigue. Pure-d old tiredness. (Remember when we used to say pure-d? I have no idea how we spelled it.)

"Let go" makes alot of sense when I put it together with those thoughts. Changing them isn't easy, but I remember making a list a long time ago. On a grid I wrote down every negative thing in my life and balanced it with something positive. For years, every time I had a negative thought I'd replace it with a positive (i.e. Thank God all my fingers work right.)

When I read that the winds of change lead to a true direction, a flame of hope burns in my heart. The trees are thick in my forest, and I can't see beyond them right now. But maybe out there on the other side is a cool lake, a vast flower-filled meadow, something I've never imagined possible. That's faith to me, believing Someone bigger than I am has everything in His hands and is helping me to "let it all go."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rip Roaring Good Times

Our company left this morning. Jaiden's two years old and a joy to be around. We love her mom and dad, too. But it will be nice to get back to our "old" comfortable selves. They'll be back for Thanksgiving, but probably won't stay with us. Jenny's mom and dad live here, so we have to share.

Chances are pretty good that we'll have Thanksgiving at our house again. We did it a few years ago and hosted 27 people--eighteen adults, three toddlers (Reid had repaint some spots on the walls after it was all over) and 6 other kids (the oldest was eight). That year, right after I suggested we have it at our house, Reid said, "All right, and when your fever goes down we'll talk about it again."

Although it was a great day and everyone enjoyed it, we decided that would be the last time. But here we are, making plans 4 months ahead to do it again.

Holidays are definitely for families. When I was widowed, I spent many a holiday alone. No time is lonlier than a day when you see many cars in front of a neighbor's house, knowing what's going on inside. I tried to not let it bother me, but after marrying Reid and spending holidays with his big family, I can look back and experience the sadness I felt then when I was alone.

In the past we always included other people in our holiday dinners. Some of the 27 that were here a couple of years ago would have been alone if we hadn't invited them to share in our day. This year there may be more of us than there were in 2005 because we have two extra kids born since then. Everyone brings food. Everyone helps clean up, and when all is said and done, we are exhausted but we've had a rip-roaring good time!

Kind of like we feel today.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Nothing But Net

I went out to get the newspaper this morning and wanted to stay out there. Summer mornings in our neighborhood in Albuquerque are glorious--clear, cool, still. Inside the house, still sleeping, was a husband I love dearly and who I never dreamed would come into my life five years ago; a son and daughter-in-law who we don't get to see as much as we'd like, and a sweet little two-year-old granddaughter. She loves life, giggles like nobody's business at the smallest things, and rarely complains. We'll go to another son's home today and see more grandchildren as we celebrate two birthdays. A little over five years ago I didn't know any of these people, but they have embraced me into their families and given a greater fullness to a life I thought was completely full before.

Life isn't always a "bowl of cherries" but there's always something to be grateful for. I'm going through a rough time right now (alot of which is because I have trouble keeping my mind still and being able to be completely consicious of the present moment), but this morning all I felt, and all I wanted to feel, was gratitude.

Looking back has its good parts and its bad. If I look back with regrets, guilt or shame, it's not good. But when I change my focus and see where I was and where I am now--"nothing but net" (as they say in the basketball world.)

I have to give the credit to God. I'm made alot of dumb, foolish decisions in my life, and He's delivered me out of them all. What's going on at this time isn't a decision I made, but it's a decision I can make now. I know that "this, too, shall pass" and when it passes, I will see God's deliverance again.

So what's my job today? Focus on being grateful, on what is good about my life (which is alot!), only remember how things in the past worked out better than I ever deserved and keep trusting God.

With Him in our lives, no matter what we face, every day will be better than the day before.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why Are We Here?

Why am I here?

Ever ask youself that question?

Am I here to just fill up space on the planet or is there a deeper reason?

Last night at a small group we attend, that question was asked of me. My honest answer is I'm not sure, but what I want it to be is this. In my 72 years I've had lots of ups and downs. The one constant in all of it has been God. If I hadn't known there was something beyond me, and what I was experiencing, I'd have quickly given up. God wasn't just out there somewhere watching over me and helping me get through it. He was real--is real--and I found out it didn't matter what I had done or was doing, He never gave up on me. He loved me through it.

I don't know why I'm here for sure, but I do know this. While I'm here I want to let every person I meet know that God loves them the same way He loves me--totally, without prejudice, no-matter-what, every second of every day--and nothing any of us ever do will change that.

So, I'll do just that this morning. God loves you just the way you are!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Life Long Friends

Who have you known longer than anyone else and is still in your life? Parents and siblings don't count? Both my parents have "passed over to the other side." Even my brother isn't the person I've known longer than anyone else.

I had a friend, Sharon, who passed away a few years ago. She and I had been friends since 2nd grade and had kept up with each other over the years. Her passing hit me hard. It was like a big piece of my heart was taken away. I have another friend I've known a long time. I don't know exactly when Anna Lou and I first met, but we were best friends until after I graduated from high school. After both of us were married and started families, we lost contact. It's only been since 2004 that we found each other again, and that is through email now.

But the person I'm really speaking of is someone I've known since I was about four years old.
I remember having a picture taken when she was two and I was four. That's my first memory of my cousin, Jo Ann. We didn't live in the same town and probably didn't see each other very much until her family moved to Memphis, Texas, where our grandparents lived.

Jo Ann and I spent summers and holidays together. We spent hours in Mamaw's front bedroom playing paper dolls, creating exotic hats with feathers (where we got them is still a mystery), reading--we loved to read and both of us still do. In our grandparent's side yard we put on musicals for the neighborhood kids (think Little Rascals). We ran the neighborhood on our "pretend" horses, the Black Stallion and the Strawberry Roan, being Vera Ellen and Cyd Charisse (or Ava Gardner--whichever one I felt like at the time.) Our pretend boyfriends were Guy Madison for Jo Ann and Roy Rogers for me. (If you're so young you've never heard of these people, it's all right. Just think of the male and female actors of today you'd like to pretend to be.)

Our grandparents took us on fishing trips to Chama, Eagle Nest, Crede, Red River--through beautiful mountain scenery and we read all the way. Once at our destination we never lifted a fishing pole. We hiked and played, and when we were older, flirted with boys. We wrote a book of poems on one trip to Eagle Nest and always took time out of every day to read. Nancy Drew was one of the series of choice, but we read others, too. I especially remember "Yankee Stranger." I think I read it three or four times and still have a copy of the book. Jo Ann and I would read the same book and cast it with movie stars.

Young, unemcumbered with stress, fearless, content. We had a good life.

Then we grew up. Dang! I decided to get married when I was nineteen. Jo Ann and my grandfather cried at my wedding. Had I known some of my future, I might have cried, too.
We wrote letters for awhile. She was in college and later teaching. Our letters grew farther and farther apart. My life took some weird detours, and we weren't in touch much.

Then came email. Somehow we got back in touch again. I was widowed, and she had retired from teaching. We had time and started emailing back and forth. Today, it's at least one email every day. We've been together at our house, in Denver where she lives and have taken an England trip together.

I've known Jo Ann longer than anyone else in my life, even longer than my brother who is seven years younger than I am. I think she's known me longer, too, since her brother is 8 years younger than she is. Like with Sharon, a piece of my heart is tied to Jo Ann. I think it's that way for all of us. We have people in our lives that make places in our hearts forever. Of course, our families are there, our children and spouses, but friends, too.

More than a cousin, I consider Jo Ann a friend. She's having a birthday on the 5th of July. Happy Birthday, cousin and friend! I'm thankful to have you in my life.